Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere had only two shifts in the third period of Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Nashville, for a total of 1:38, as coach Gerard Gallant clearly was unhappy with his play.
Asked if Lafreniere was OK, the coach said he was.
"Yep. Just wanted to give him a seat,’’ Gallant said. "He wasn’t alone.’’
With the Rangers trailing in the third period, Gallant changed up the lines he’d used for eight straight games. Third- line right wing Julien Gauthier was bumped up to the Mika Zibanejad-Chris Kreider line and third-line center Filip Chytil ended up playing with Barclay Goodrow and Kevin Rooney. Kaapo Kakko spent some time with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.
"There wasn’t much going on, so I just wanted to try something,’’ Gallant said. "I put Gauthier out there [with Zibanejad and Kreider], add a little bit more speed, see if that would change a little bit. It changed a little bit, but it just wasn’t enough. I just wanted to change something up. Definitely try something different.’’
Hajek makes debut
With rookie defenseman Nils Lundkvist forced out of the lineup because of a non-COVID-related illness, Libor Hajek made his season debut in Game No. 27. Hajek, who began the season as the eighth defenseman on the Rangers’ roster, was scratched for the first 12 games, then went to AHL Hartford for a conditioning stint. Upon his return, he was scratched for nine straight games before finally getting to play on Sunday.
"I thought he was great,’’ defenseman Jacob Trouba said. "That’s not an easy situation. I don’t think anybody really knows what it’s like to be in the situation that he was in and not playing for that long to start the year. And he’s a great teammate.
"He handled it like a true professional. It’s great to see him get his chance in the lineup, and I thought he made some great breakout passes today. I thought he played a good game.’’
Hajek played on the third defense pair with Lundkvist’s usual partner, Patrik Nemeth. He played 12:53 and was credited with two shots on goal and two blocked shots.